ANC wants step-aside rule cemented in party constitution

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius
  • A fierce battle awaits the ANC at its national conference in December. 
  • The party circulated a draft constitutional amendment document to its branches. 
  • The most controversial of the amendments is to make the step-aside rule part of the ANC's constitution. 

Despite fierce contestation still simmering about the step-aside rule, the ANC plans to cement the rule as part of the party's constitution at its conference in December. 

The ANC has compiled a list of constitutional proposed amendments, which deal with organisational renewal and membership.

The step-aside rule or "temporary suspension" has appeared as part of the proposed amendment 16. 

The rule, taken at the ANC's 2017 conference, has seen several prominent ANC leaders step aside from elected positions because of criminal court cases. 

Ace Magashule, the ANC's secretary-general, has been suspended since May 2021 because of a corruption court case.

READ | Pro-Zuma song shut down at ANC policy conference, while KZN sticks to guns on step-aside rule

This year, the ANC's national executive committee strengthened the step-aside rule; it was extended to exclude party members on step-aside to not contest elective positions. 

The ANC eThekwini's regional chairperson, Zandile Gumede, could not stand for the treasurer-general position at the KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference because of corruption cases.

The party, in its draft constitutional amendment document, which News24 has seen, described stepping aside as: 

Voluntarily relinquishing, forgoing or refraining from temporarily exercising or enjoying the benefits, privileges and entitlements, including not standing for a position in the BEC, REC, PEC or NEC. This extends to holding any office, post or position as an office bearer, public representative, member or deployee, pending the finalisation of any process or proceeding, including a disciplinary hearing, appeal or review, whether inside or outside the organisation.

For a member to step aside, they would have to face criminal charges or any disciplinary hearing in the ANC. 

The rule will be voluntary, but if an ANC member fails to step aside from the leadership structure, the secretary-general will have the power to suspend the member. 

The constitutional proposed amendment stated that the party could reverse the step-aside ruling if new facts emerged. 

The rule's emergence as a constitutional amendment will see growing debates ahead of the December conference. 

The ANC in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal expressed support for the rule being scrapped.  Both provinces believe strongly that the rule has been selectively applied. 

These two provinces had popular leaders - Gumede in KZN, and Dan Msiza in Limpopo - prohibited from standing for elective positions because of the rule. 

READ | December conference crucial as step-aside policy continues to trouble ANC

Ahead of the ANC policy conference in July, calls for the rule to be scrapped were made. 

However, in his closing address, party leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, said the rule would remain. 

He added that the concerns raised would be listened to. 

The ANC in KZN had already expressed its intention to fight the rule at the national conference. 

ANC KZN provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo's confidence is not without weight. It is expected to bring the biggest delegation of branch delegates to the conference. 

Mtolo told News24 at the policy conference that the real fight would happen in December. 

For the constitutional amendments to pass, it would need the majority of support from ANC branches. 

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